On this weekend as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and #ReclaimMLK, restoring the legacy of the radical teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., I pause to examine this current moment and movement. I examine the role of social media and raise a couple of questions, 1) Can the hashtag lead us to an Ella Baker moment and movement? 2) How do we use these tools to move #BeyondReActivism, beyond the tweeting and protest of #blackdeath to a sustained movement – #OrganizingForPower, or holistic community development where the end goal is not reform or rights, but power.
From Jena 6 to Laquan McDonald, social media has played integral part in how we organize and galvanize the masses. The use of social media and the democratization of communication has provided a platform that amplifies the voices of the most marginalized in society. The democratization of communication has led to new and decentralized models of leadership. Civil Rights activist, Ella Baker was often critical of the male-led, hierarchical and messianic leadership-style of the Black Church and Civil Rights organizations; Baker called for a more collective form of leadership called, participatory democracy.
#BlackLivesMatter, a decentralized movement of grassroots organizations, has led to a leader-ful movement, snatching the mic from traditional civil rights organizations and placing it into the hands of community-based and grassroots activists.
These are exciting times that we should be celebrating and critiquing. This new energy has shifted the academy, church and the state. We must work to sustain this new energy and #OrganizeForPower. We must organize to build independent Black organizations that are funded by us and for us. The philanthropic community must go beyond funding programs and conferences and shift its focus toward the funding of Black innovation, social entrepreneurship and community-based organizations. The progressive Black Church must do more than preach Jesus and Justice, we must pool our collective resources for the development of community. We must move toward an ideological framework for holistic community development. We must move beyond human rights, civil rights and reform based campaigns that appeal to the morality of the empire. As Dr. James Cones stated in 1979 in his article entitled, “A Black American Perspective on The Future of African Theology”,
“This economic and political domination, sharply enhanced and defined by racism, will not be ended simply through an appeal to reason or the religious piety of those who hold us in captivity. Oppression ceases only when the victims accumulate enough power to stop it.”
Let Us Rise Up and Build.